In 1884, Hamilton’s Salvation Army often rented out the Grand Opera House on James Street North for their Sunday services
Sunday, March 23, 1884 was no different at first as a quiet and orderly crowd nearly-filled the theatre auditorium as the services began..
However something unexpected occurred:
“The services were somewhat rudely disturbed by the antics of a man, who, truthfully or otherwise, claimed to be a journalist. During a lull in the entertainment, he suddenly sprang up in his seat and gave out the startling information that he was a servant of the enemy of mankind.
“Shaking a handful of paper in his hand, he said that he had been writing a wicked report of the proceedings of the meeting for the devil’s paper.”1
1 “A Victim of the ‘Power’ or the Snakes’ Creates a Sensation at the Opera House”
Hamilton Spectator. March 24, 1884.
While the Spectator never identified the “journalist” or the newspaper he worked for, it could well have been a reporter with the only other daily newspaper in the city, the Hamilton Times.
The Salvation Army generally, and certainly the leader of that afternoon’s services, Captain Happy Bill Cooper, were no shy to create, or react to sensations :
“There is nothing Capt. Happy Bill likes better than candor, and upon hearing this self-confessed statement of the depths of depravity in which this unfortunate was living, he at once opened the whole force of Salvation artillery upon the devil which lodged in this man’s soul. He was brought down to the penitent bench and whole broadsides of hot shot fired into him.”1
However, the ‘journalist’ soon had second thoughts about the whole business of publicly confessing his sins and turning his life over to God. The prayers and urging of the Salvation Army had little impact on him:
“It was of no use. His career as a journalist, no doubt, had caused his heart to become too case-hardened for the fiery shower to have any effect, and he passed away into the great unknown, or wherever he came from, with the remark that he was lost.”1
The Spectator was unsure what provoked the journalist to create the incident and ended his account of it as follows:
“Whether his curious actions were the result of the captain’s eloquent words, or from frequent libations of the ardent, it does not appear.”1